THE streets of Wallingford were lined with hundreds of well-wishers yesterday as HRH Prince Michael of Kent inspected troops from RAF Benson.

More than 100 service personnel marched through the town to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the helicopter base.

Exercising their Freedom of the Borough of Wallingford, troops marched across Wallingford Bridge, with colours flying and bayonets fixed, following the Central Band of the RAF.

They filed into the Market Place where they were greeted by Wallingford Mayor Jane Titchener and HRH Prince Michael. The Prince, Honorary Air Marshal of Royal Air Force Benson and a former Queen’s Own Hussar, inspected the parade before it marched onto the Kinecroft.

Watching the inspection in the Market Place were husband and wife Mike and Angie Pickett, from Freeland, near Witney. Mr Pickett said: “It is fantastic – we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Mrs Pickett, whose father Geoffrey Bareham served in India with the RAF during the Second World War, said: “It was wonderful.”

As the inspection took place, Puma and Merlin helicopters soared overhead to the applause of the crowd.

The Oxford Times:

  • Prince Michael of Kent, right, with Wing Commander Andy Baron, the Officer in Charge of 230 Squadron

HRH Prince Michael said: “I am honoured to be Reviewing Officer of the RAF Benson Freedom of Wallingford Parade.

“The station has been an integral part of the local community for 75 years and has achieved a great deal during that period. I am delighted to be here to confer my thanks, alongside the personnel of RAF Benson, to the local community for their unerring support.”

Following the parade, the people of Wallingford were invited to join a civic reception on the Kinecroft, featuring a Puma helicopter.

The RAF also provided stands telling the history of RAF Benson while the Central Band of the RAF and the RAF Benson Military Wives Choir performed.

Mrs Titchener said: “It has been a fantastic day.

“The freedom parade cements the strong links between the town and the base and I’m very proud that the RAF chose to exercise the freedom in its 75th year.”

The Oxford Times:

Major Albert Russell, 95, from Wallingford, above, said the parade was “excellent”.

Many families said they always attended RAF Benson parades in Wallingford.

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